A concert pianist and vanguard composer, George Antheil (1900-1959) became known as the “Bad Boy of Music.”
The ultimate American in Paris, Antheil was an avant-garde provocateur of the first order who made his name composing iconoclastic compositions: the loudest and brashest classical music of his time. But this album gives us three new performances-two of them world-premiere recordings-which reveal another, forgotten side of antheil, the incurable romantic. Written in 1926, after the the height of Antheil’s radical period, the Piano Concerto No. 2 is an experiment in classical form. The work contains the same sudden juxtapositions and abrupt contrasts of mood as his futuristic music. But the excesses of his recent Ballet mécanique (written for 16 player pianos!) are compensated for by an almost spare, baroque orchestration and motifs that draw on Bach as much as on Stravinsky. In three movements, Antheil employs a more restrained but still exuberant style. The beautifully meditative slow movement is followed by a virtuosic and compelling toccata. Each movement ends on an overtly Bachian cadence, most obvious in the sweetly naive coda of the final movement.